Hourlong 'The Office' is top comedy Thursday

On a night dominated by season finales, it was a show still a week away from wrapping up that was far best.

”American Idol,” which featured the elimination of Haley Reinhart to create a Scotty McCreery-Lauren Alaina final, was tops Thursday with a 6.2 rating/19 share in the 18-49 demo, and 21.1 million overall viewers. Those numbers were easily good enough to give Fox a comfortable win.

Although ”Idol” dominated, it was down slightly from last week’s final four result show, but up 12% in total viewers from the comparable elimination show a year ago.

Signing off with an hourlong episode that featured appearances from Ricky Gervais, Jim Carrey, James Spader and Kathy Bates, NBC’s guest-star fueled ”The Office” (3.6/10, 7m) was the second-best program of the night. That was good enough to defeat all comedy competitors, including ”The Big Bang Theory” (3.5/12, 11.1m), which is normally Thursday’s top laffer.

CBS, though, in a very tight race for second, bested ABC and NBC. ”Big Bang” and ”Rules of Engagement” (2.5/7, 8.7m) were No. 1 in the 8 o’clock hour , besides ”Idol,” of course , handily topping ABC’s ”Wipeout” (1.7/5, 5.5m) and a pair of ”Office” repeats on NBC. Despite ”Idol’s” dominance in the hour, ”Big Bang” was relatively even versus a week ago.

The high point for ABC was ”Grey’s Anatomy” (3.4/9, 9.5m), up slightly in the demo from last week, though down a touch in total viewers. ”Grey’s” defeated the first hour of a two-hour ”The Mentalist” and Fox’s ”Bones” (3.2/8, 10m), which had its best season finale in three years.

In the 10 p.m. slot, the second half of ”The Mentalist” was better than both a week-to-week slightly improved ”Private Practice” (2.5/7, 7.4m) and a pair of ”Parks and Recreation” episodes.

CW offered a repeat of the two-hour ”Smallville” series finale (0.5/1, 1.3m).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: Fox, 4.7/13; CBS, 2.8/8; ABC, 2.5/7; NBC, 2.4/7; CW, 0.5/1.

In total viewers: Fox, 15.6 million; CBS, 12.4 million; ABC, 7.5 million; NBC, 4.6 million; CW, 1.3 million.

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